Jodi Picoult has been one of my favorite authors ever since a friend introduced me to her back in college. She is also one of the first adult authors I ever read for fun. I love the way she always gives readers an in-depth look at social and moral issues and really makes us think. She doesn't say, "This is my viewpoint and this is the only way it is." Instead, she leaves interpretation up to her readers.
After reading her books over the years, it does get to the point where sometimes you can predict what's coming as opposed to someone picking up the same book and never reading Picoult. In fact, I have a love-hate relationship with several of the book's written after My Sister's Keeper (still my favorite book by any author). Perhaps it's because MSK, while not the first Picoult book I ever read, was one of the earliest ones I read. I started buying the books "brand-new at launch" with the book directly after MSK, Vanishing Acts. All of my favorite Picoult books occur before MSK.
I'm sure this is partially my fault, since Picoult used to have an e-mail newsletter that would give us tidbits regarding upcoming books and she used to post the full first chapter of her novels a year before they hit the bookstores. I'm sure I had such high levels of anticipation that nothing she wrote could have fully met my expectations. I also had a hard time connecting with several characters from newer works and wished I cared about them the way I did earlier characters.
With Picoult's latest novel, House Rules, I found myself deeply caring for the characters in a way that had been missing for a while when I read a Picoult novel. I LOVED Jacob and his quirkiness. Despite having Asperger's, he's still a character with a lot of potential. I loved the way he loved crime and forensics so much that he would show up at crime scenes just to check things out. Sure, it was weird to set up crime scenes in his own house, but it was a great character trait. All of these traits worked well when building the novel's mystery and court drama.
Like other Picoult novels, I sort of guessed where things were going, but I found myself second-guessing that thought and wondering how she could get to where she was going. In the end, I found myself only partially right, which was absolutely lovely and refreshing. I felt so engaged with this novel and it really brought me back to Picoult after wondering whether I was growing disenchanted with her writing and if I could still consider her a favorite.
In brief, the novel is about a teenager named Jacob who has Asperger's Syndrome. He loves investigating crime scenes and always watches a show called Crimebusters. One of the signs of Asperger's is being unable to look someone in the eyes. This reads "guilty," so when Jacob's tutor turns up dead and the investigators turn to Jacob, he finds himself accused of murder. He loves the idea of being involved in a real, live crime scene full of courtroom drama, but doesn't actually *understand* the implications of what is happening to him because his mind can't process what's going on.
Coming on the heels of finishing Out of My Head, this book made me sit back and reflect once more on people with special needs. Both books were handled in a caring manner that really engaged a reader with the characters and gave a bird's-eye view of what it's like to live with a disability.
Whether you love Picoult or hate her, this is one of her strongest novels in recent years and is definitely worth a read.